Category Archives: Deseret News Columns

Why Utah should reform the state sales tax system

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt served during the state’s longest economic expansion. He once told me, “Decisions more than circumstances really shape our lives and our communities.” It’s a profound statement. We become our actions, not our inheritance. Utah policymakers would do well to keep this aphorism in mind as they grapple with tax reform this legislative session.

Utah faces a structural sales tax challenge. Taxable sales as a percent of the economy are shrinking, declining from 67 percent in 1980 to 42 percent today. That’s a dangerous trend even in good economic times, but in a downturn could compromise the state’s long-term prosperity and life quality.

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Utah’s coal transition belongs to all of us

Original published in the Deseret News.

Dinosaur bones, footprints, eggs and other fossils can be found throughout eastern Utah. It is a paleontologist wonderland because here, in Utah’s coal country, the last dinosaurs came to die.

Today, another kind of extinction faces residents in Utah’s coal country. If the economies in Carbon and Emery counties don’t diversify, many family supporting jobs will become extinct.

The area faces a silent recession caused by society’s actions to combat global climate change. The benefits are widespread, but the costs are concentrated in places like eastern Utah.

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There’s still much to learn from Watergate

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I was 10 years old when burglars were arrested at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., for breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The intruders had been caught wiretapping phones and stealing documents to help President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign. In the months that followed, I, like a lot of people, watched in disbelief, even horror, as the abuse of power by the president of the United States was on full display.

This week, I received a welcome reminder of the lessons learned from Watergate — then and now. I attended an event in Washington hosted by the Deseret News. The gathering focused on the twin virtues of trust and integrity and featured perspectives from Bob Woodward, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter from The Washington Post, and Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a former law clerk for Judge John J. Sirica (the judge who presided over the trial of the Watergate burglars) and current member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Insights were also shared by Michael Dimock, president of the Pew Research Center.

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This Christmas rekindle a favorite Christmas memory

Originally published in the Deseret News.

When I was 9 years old, I woke up before the rest of my family on Christmas morning to take a sneak peek at the gifts. I remember my sense of wonder as I tiptoed down the staircase. The fireplace still gave off a slight glow from the raging fire on Christmas Eve. Lights twinkled on the tree. My Santa mother had followed our family tradition and placed some gifts under the tree and others unwrapped by our stockings, which were spread out on a couch or chair. Each child had their spot. It appeared to be the perfect Egan family Christmas.

And then I saw it. Prominently displayed by my sister’s stocking was the gift I wanted more than anything else: an authentic Mickey Mouse watch. I looked at her designated spot on the couch and then looked at mine. No Mickey Mouse watch for me. It must be a mistake I reasoned. My sister never said one thing about wanting the Disney-created watch. But there it was for all to see — my sister got the treasured watch and I didn’t. I returned to my room teary and disappointed.

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What Utah’s historically low fertility rate means for Utah

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Utah population estimates released this week confirm a deceleration in growth. Utah births fell to their lowest level in 18 years. With net in-migration also tapering off, Utah’s population increased in 2018 by a healthy but modest 1.69 percent.

There are many storylines about Utah’s growth, but of greatest interest to me is the steady decline in Utah’s fertility rate. Utah’s total fertility rate — a measure of births per woman — has dropped for 10 consecutive years. Utah’s current fertility rate of 2.12 is at a historical low and rapidly approaching replacement level. Demographers define 2.10 as replacement level, or the level of fertility at which the population replaces itself from one generation to the next.

This is new territory for Utah.

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What to expect as the McAdams bus heads to Washington, D.C.

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I remember the first time I heard about a guy named Ben McAdams. I was employed by the Salt Lake Chamber and working closely with Mayor-elect Ralph Becker on his transition team. The mayor-elect told me of his intent to bring on a sharp young attorney to oversee government relations for his administration. The new senior staffer was a Columbia law graduate who was leaving a lucrative position at a corporate law firm to enlist in public service. I took note and looked forward to meeting him.

In the years since, I’ve taken note many more times as McAdams has achieved significant public policy and political success in the Beehive State. As a senior staffer with Salt Lake City, he helped downtown Salt Lake City reinvent itself, as a legislator he fought for and achieved bipartisan victories on issues such as high-quality pre-kindergarten, and as a county mayor he helped create homeless resource centers and a plan for a convention-headquarters hotel. These are just a few of his noteworthy accomplishments in public service.

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Invest in people and support Question 1

Originally published in the Deseret News.

The same thought runs through my mind every time I see a homeless person in downtown Salt Lake City, on a street corner or at the side of a freeway exit. This person was once a child just like my son or daughter. He or she had their life and all their hopes and dreams ahead of them. Somewhere along the way, something went terribly wrong. Through a complicated mix of bad luck, family breakdown, mental illness, substance abuse, incorrect choices and public policies, this once innocent and beautiful child is left with a shopping cart, a tarp, a cardboard sign and visible despair.

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Lessons learned from Utah’s mighty five college presidents

Originally published in the Deseret News.

I spent last week in Washington, D.C., and witnessed the dumpster fire that is the Supreme Court confirmation process. As a U.S. citizen, Utahn and woman, I welcomed the chance to return to the Beehive State where civility still means something, and reasonable people can disagree, while still building a great community together.

My enthusiasm deepened this week as I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of Utah’s new mighty five — the female college presidents in Utah. Their leadership inspires me and stands in stark contrast to the venomous and divisive leadership we see in our nation’s capital. I think we can learn a lot from Utah’s remarkable female college presidents.

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Trump’s economy is on a sugar high

Originally published in the Deseret News.

Donald Trump’s style and tone, but his policies are getting the job done. After all, look at how well the economy is doing.” They go on to elaborate on the U.S. economy’s impressive performance as proof positive that it’s OK to turn a blind eye to the problems with the current administration, such as the fanning of trade wars, reckless diplomacy with Russia and North Korea and the divisiveness of each new presidential tweet.

There’s a term for this in politics. It’s called “political expediency.” It means making a political choice based on short-term benefits, even if long-term outcomes may be at risk. Purveyors of political expedience take the gamble. Continue reading Trump’s economy is on a sugar high